Extended transcript: Al Gore on environmentalism, Trump, and solving the climate crisis

In this expanded transcript of his interview with correspondent Lee Cowan, former Vice President Al Gore talks about how he came to preach the dangers of the climate crisis; his new film, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”; and of training people to speak out for solutions as carbon polluters and their lobbyists ratchet up their efforts to spread disinformation. He also discusses his (unsuccessful) efforts to persuade President Trump to keep the United States within the framework of the Paris Climate Agreement.

LEE COWAN: Let’s talk about the obvious, which is the Paris Climate Accord. I mean, what do you think is the practical implication of us pulling out? I mean, have we ceded, in some ways, our leadership on climate control by doing that?

AL GORE:  Well, traditionally the United States has been the natural leader of the world. That’s not just pride as an American speaking; it’s just the reality. And so without the U.S. being involved, it’s hard for the world community to move forward as effectively. However, the backlash and reaction to President Trump’s decision has really brought the rest of the world more firmly behind the Paris Agreement.

LEE COWAN:  It’s galvanized a lot of people.

AL GORE:  It’s galvanized the rest of the world. And it’s galvanized a lot of states, and cities, and business leaders here in the U.S. So one of the big fears was that if he pulled out it would give an excuse for other countries like India, for example, to pull out also. But instead it has actually galvanized a lot of these other countries to say, “Well, we’ll show him. We’re gonna even more!” India’s just announced within the last couple weeks that within 13 years 100% of all their cars have to be electric vehicles. That’s amazing! And they’re canceling all these coal plants and ramping up on the solar, and that’s happening in lots of places now.

LEE COWAN: So it’s almost like pulling out [gave] impetus to change that you talk about — that sometimes you really need a jolt to something.

AL GORE: Yeah, I think so. There’s always a risk of being Pollyannaish on some of these things. But honestly, that is the way it looks now. The rest of the world is expressing determination to go even farther even faster, and that’s a really good thing. Those who were worried the U.S. would be isolated, there are some dangers there. But it’s really the president who’s more isolated now in the aftermath of this. At least that’s what it looks like to me.

LEE COWAN: On the international front, can you compartmentalize this decision, or is there still going to be some collateral damage on other issues as a result?

AL GORE: There could well be because the decision was made immediately after President Trump also damaged the cohesion of the NATO alliance by declining to reaffirm our obligations to come to the defense of our European allies. And so those and other things taken together could complicate the ability of the U.S. to get cooperation from some of these other countries on matters of top priority to us.

LEE COWAN: So it’s not just climate that could be affected?

AL GORE: That’s the way I see it. But the rest of the world, like many of us here in the U.S., are kind of looking at President Trump — and I know some people are really still all for him and everything — but the majority are trying to make sense of how this presidency is unfolding. And I think the rest of the world’s doing the same thing, and so they may not put the full blame on our country as a whole. They recognize we’re going through a tough stretch here.


Former Vice President Al Gore with correspondent Lee Cowan.

CBS News

LEE COWAN: I know you’ve been asked this before, but if so [much] of what was decided in Paris was voluntary, why did we need the accord in the first place? And if a lot of these states and businesses step up here to do this on their own despite what the White House does, why was the Paris Accord so important?

AL GORE: Well, it was really and truly an historic breakthrough. And your question’s a great one, but it has a real clear answer: When the entire world came together and expressed a common determination to reduce the net greenhouse gas emissions to zero as early in the second half of this century as possible, what that did was send a really powerful signal, not just to governments who had signed the pledges, but to businesses and industries and investors. And as a result it’s like the train’s leaving the station and everybody’s on board. “You’re on the platform. Do you wanna be left behind or not?”

And most people said, “Yeah, we wanna be on that train. If the whole world is moving in this direction, let’s do it together.” And here in this country there’s this big group saying, “We’re still in the Paris Agreement,” and it includes California, New York, and the state of Washington, Connecticut, Hawaii. You can go right down the list, and all these cities including the big metropolis of Atlanta has just signed up to be 100% renewable as quick as they can get there. And business leaders, you know? There’s a huge, impressive list of businesses that are saying, “We are in the Paris Agreement. We’re going to meet and exceed these commitments.”

LEE COWAN: On that point, though, the president has made an economic argument, that there just isn’t room, essentially, in the economy to be sustainable and at the same time provide jobs. And a lot of his base believes that.

AL GORE: Well, the business community does not believe that at all. And even a lot of people in his base don’t believe it — a majority of Trump’s voters were in favor of staying in the Paris Agreement. And if you look at what’s really happening in the economy, the economic argument actually is very strongly in favor of the Paris Agreement. There are now twice as many jobs in the solar industry as in the coal industry. Solar jobs are growing 17 times faster than other jobs in the U.S.

LEE COWAN: Seventeen times?

AL GORE: It’s one of the brightest spots in our economic revival. And the single fastest-growing job over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is wind turbine technician. And if you take the efficiency jobs and the renewable energy jobs and add them together, they’re significantly more numerous now than all of the jobs in fossil energy. Fossil jobs are declining while the renewable jobs are growing fasters than other jobs.

LEE COWAN: It seems like [Trump] in some ways wants a return to the 19th century in terms of some of these jobs that really just don’t seem like they’re there anymore, at least not viable for very long.

AL GORE: Yeah. And in coal country he found a base of support from people who’d been hurt by trends that started decades ago: the mechanization of coal mining, and then natural gas, and now renewables really eliminating the market for coal. The global coal industry has lost most of its market capitalization over the last decades. And those jobs are really not coming back. I know some people don’t like to hear that, but I’ve always supported a really robust retraining program, reemployment program with better wages and better jobs, healthier jobs. But he has reached out to some people who understandably are very upset over the economic trends in Appalachia, for example. And he’s basically promised to recreate the 19th century.

Source: CBS News – Politics



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